SCAM ALERT: Thieves draining money from holiday gift cards

If you received a gift card in your stocking over the holiday, you may want to double check the balance.

Scammers have figured out a way to use your gift card before you even get a chance to spend it. The Better Business Bureau says scam artists are scratching off the back of gift cards to get the security codes, then using a replacement strip to cover the code before putting it back on the rack.

Once the card has been purchased and activated, the scammer gets an alert that says funds have been loaded onto the card, according to the FBI. The scammer will then drain the balance on the card before you even get a chance to use it.

Experts say the best way to protect yourself is by buying a gift card directly from the retailer online. If you do buy a gift card in person, try to get one that is kept behind the register in well-sealed packaging.

The Retail Gift Card Association says you should always double check the package for any tampering before you buy it.

Experts also say it's best to use the card as soon as possible. In most cases, you can activate your card online and even change that security code pin for extra precaution.

If you've fallen victim to this scam, you can go back to the retailer and ask for a full refund. Experts say they'll likely give you a new card.